Jeong, Dong Hyeon
Rev. Dr. Dong Hyeon Jeong is the Assistant Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. He served as a missionary in the Philippines for two years with his parents who are missionaries themselves since 1987. He is an ordained elder of the United Methodist Church. His forthcoming book is entitled With the Wild Beasts, Learning from the Trees: Animality, Vegetality, and (Colonized) Ethnicity in the Gospel of Mark
“Postcolonially Resisting the Economic Shitstem: A Filipino-Korean Reading of Luke 16:1-13 with Mel Chen’s Animacies Theory”
The interaction between the landowner and his manager in Luke 16:1-13 is baffling on both fronts. First, after getting terminated for embezzlement, the manager resorted to reducing the loans owed by his master’s debtors as his so-called “solution” to his conundrum. Second, the landowner (or perhaps Luke) seems to commend the manager’s decision to lower his account receivables, even depicting such arbitrary decision as shrewd act that is worth emulating by others (v.9). Moreover, the passage further explains the parable by arguing that managing dishonest wealth is not only inevitable but even necessary in preparing oneself to manage “true riches” (v.11).
I interpret this perplexing passage by intersectionally confronting the responses of the master and the manager. I engage the master’s response from the postcolonially ambivalent relationship between the Korean missionaries in the Philippines who own “mission centers” and hire local Filipin@s as managers. Since the 1980s, many Korean missionaries stationed themselves all over the Philippines, erecting mansions which they call as “mission centers.” Since missionaries have to go to their mission fields, they leave their mission centers with local Filipin@ managers. The miscommunications and misunderstandings happen quite often due to language and cultural barriers. Most of all, the mission center owners become wary of their local managers for their savvy dealings, outsmarting their bosses in many ways. Such tension echoes the very definition of postcolonial ambivalence in which the mission center owners “hate” their local managers for their sly civility, and yet “love” or desire to be like them for their cunning methods.
On the other hand, I interpret the (Filipin@) manager’s response with Mel Chen’s animacies theory in which one finds life, the animating and the subverting, on more-than-humans (in this case, the so-called “inanimate objects”). The manager resists and transgresses the economic “shitstem” (Rasta-speak for oppressive systemic powers) by tapping into the animacies of (losing) more-than-human olive oil and wheat (v.6-7) as his affective resistance against the hegemonic grip of his master’s unjust wealth.